Wings Magazine

NLAF announces Elsie MacGill Northern Lights awards recipients

The Northern Lights Aero Foundation board members are pleased to announce the eight recipients of the 2018 aviation and aerospace awards.

May 29, 2018  By Northern Lights Aero Foundation

Each year the not-for-profit foundation honours outstanding women who have made a significant contribution in their field and who continue to lay the groundwork to attract other women to enter or excel in these industries. This year will be a very special occasion as we celebrate our 10th Anniversary. To honour this milestone we will also highlight the 41 past award winners since 2009, many of whom have continued to advance their careers and achievements since winning their awards.

The foundation’s Award Program called the “Elsie” is named after aviation pioneer and human rights advocate Elsie Gregory MacGill, the world’s first female aircraft designer, MacGill graduated from the University of Toronto’s electrical engineering program in 1927 and later became pivotal in the design and production of the Hawker Hurricane in Canada during the Second World War. During her career, MacGill was appointed to the Canadian Royal Commission on the Status of Women and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

“Elsie was a woman who was not very well known yet made significant contributions toward the advancement of women in Canada” says Joy Parker Blackwood, President of the Northern Lights Aero Foundation. “Our goal is to bring more recognition for her and all the women doing great work in aviation and aerospace in Canada. They are all awe-inspiring role models for our youth!”

The 2018 recipients are:

  • Pioneer Award: Major Micky Colton joined Canadian Forces as a pilot March 1980 and graduated with wings in 1982. She was posted on the C130 Hercules at the following Squadrons; 436 Sqn Trenton, 429 Sqn Winnipeg, 435 Sqn Edmonton, 424 Sqn Trenton (twice), 426 Sqn Trenton (twice). Was Air Transport Operations Duty Officer (dispatch job), Wing Flight Safety Officer-Trenton and C130 Standards and Evaluation officer at Transport and Rescue Evaluation Team (TRSET) Trenton-twice. Micky accumulated about 6900 hours on the C130 before retiring. Retired from the Regular force in October 2011 and joined the Air Force Reserves the next day. She just retired 30th May as a Reservist Duty Operations Officer for 424 Transport and Rescue Squadron- Trenton. Micky went to St. Lawrence College in 2013 and took the Veterinary Assistant certificate program. She blazed a trail for women in the Canadian military!
  • Flight Operations Award: Julie Beverstein – Assistant Chief Pilot, Recruitment and Retention, Porter Airlines. Julie has been flying for 20 years. She started flying lessons at the Island Airport while at U of T doing her BSc; she then went to Seneca College to do the rest of her flight training. She was a flight instructor for 5 years before working for Air Georgian out of Toronto Pearson. She joined Porter Airlines in 2009. As the Assistant Chief Pilot, Recruitment and Retention, Julie is an active line pilot and Training Captain. She leads the pilot hiring and all pilot recruitment initiatives at Porter some of which included airline open houses, the Porter Airlines Early Connection program, destination porter, a partnership with 13 fight colleges coast to coast as well as the Porter Star Award. Julie is one of the leads in Women Soar at Porter, an internal group focused on bridging the gender gap at Porter and more specifically the flight deck. She also sits on the board of the Northern Lights Aero Foundation and is actively involved with the ATAC Fly Canada project.
  • Government Award: Emily Crombez has accomplished a great deal in the first ten years of her aviation career, including being the first female to crew the Bombardier CL-415 waterbomber for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Emily steps up to face challenges head on and inspire those around her. Growing up working on a family ginseng farm, and neighboring tobacco farms to fund her pilot license, Emily completed her training and had to wait until her 17th birthday to receive her Private Pilot License. Emily graduated from Confederation College Aviation Flight Management program as Class Valedictorian and Female Athlete of the Year. Following graduation, she flew as a bush pilot in North Eastern Ontario, including three seasons flying the iconic deHavilland beaver on floats. In 2011 Emily established and for the past six years chaired the Sleeping Giant Chapter of the 99s. The following year, Emily was hired by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry as a Twin Otter Captain and was selected to take part in unique operations such as aerial rabies vaccinating and a polar bear survey. Emily was the recipient of the prestigious Vicki Cruse Emergency Maneuver Training Scholarship in 2013, where she completed an aerobatic and emergency maneuver course. In 2014 Emily was the first female type rated on the CL-415 waterbomber in North America; she crewed the waterbomber for three seasons. Currently, Emily is flying the Boeing 737 for WestJet Airlines. Emily continues to give back to the aviation community through various roles as a Confederation College Advisory board member and reunion planning committee member; 99s Scholarship Chair, Session Launch Coordinator, and mentor for the Professional Pilot Leadership Initiative. On her days off, Emily dedicates her time to sports, the family farm, travelling, and spending time at the cottage with her partner Nate.
  • Business Award: Julie Mailhot started with Air Canada in 1987 as a Customer Service Agent and has progressed up the organizational ladder. She was the first female Flight Dispatcher and eventually became the Chief of Operations, managing a group of 80 flight Dispatchers. She has been promoted many times throughout her career and is currently the Chief Operating Officer at Air Canada Express/Air Georgian. She has served many other organizations in various positions and has received the Art of Excellence Award from Air Canada. She is also president of the Dreams Take Flight Toronto Chapter and has been involved with the charity for the last 21 years.
  • Education Award: Dr. Alexandra Kindrat is an educator and research scientist from Montreal. She performs research on mathematics instruction, as well as research related to micro-gravity at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, and on the International Space Station. She is a private airplane pilot, and a long-time member of the Montreal chapter of the Ninety-Nines. She holds degrees from McGill University (Montreal), the International Space University (France), and Concordia University (Montreal). Along with her teaching duties in Montreal, Dr. Kindrat has been a member of the teaching faculty at NASA’s High School Aerospace Scholar Program at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas. Moreover, she has also has served as co-chair at the International Astronautical Congress in the Human Space Endeavours Virtual Forum held in Naples, Italy, and in Cape Town, South Africa. Additionally, Alexandra has provided input as an educational consultant for the Space Advisory Board roundtable on Canada’s future in space at the Canadian Space Agency. Alexandra encourages her students to pursue studies leading to careers in STEM, and continues to inspire her students to reach for the stars through sharing with them her own endeavours in aviation and aerospace.
  • Engineering Award: Niloofar Moradi earned her undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Concordia University in 2010. After graduating, she started her career at Rolls Royce Canada. Shortly after, Niloofar joined Pratt & Whitney Canada as an aerodynamicist in the Turbine Aerodynamics department, where she was involved in all aspects of turbine aerodynamics, from research and airfoil design to engine development & production support. In 2016, Niloofar earned her Master of Applied Science at École de technologie supérieure, while working full time. She currently works in the Turbine Mechanical Design department at Pratt & Whitney Canada, where she designs and integrates turbine components and coordinates interfaces with other modules. Niloofar is passionate about encouraging and creating new opportunities for the next generation of engineers. She regularly volunteers on boards and for events as part of her firmly held pay-it-forward philosophy. She is a member of the Industrial Advisory Board for Mechanical, Industrial, and Aerospace Engineering Department of Concordia University as well as the Aerospace sub-committee of Palais des congrès de Montréal. Through her involvement with Women Leadership Committee of Pratt & Whitney Canada, Niloofar recently joined the Seize Your Future community and continues to work with charitable organizations such as Dress for Success, L’envol and Operation Christmas Child. In addition to her work and volunteer activities, Niloofar is an avid traveler and scuba diver.
  • Rising Star Award: Larissa Chiu received her Private Pilot’s License through the Air Cadet Program in 2016 and now volunteers her time flying in her squadron’s familiarization program for young cadets. Larissa is currently attending the University of British Columbia in the Bachelor of Science program and is on the Executive of UBC’s Aviation Club. She is working on her night rating and Commercial Pilot’s license. She has received many awards along the way for such a young person including numerous Top Cadet awards, a Royal Conservatory of Music Scholarship, and Duke of Edinburgh Gold Medal Award. She volunteers for Girls Fly Too events, is a mentor at her high school, and also volunteers as a STEM Ambassador for Science Expo. Last year she entered into a partnership with Hamilton Watch Company who generously supports her flight training by donating $1,000 through her flight school in exchange for Larissa to fly Hamilton’s top employees!
  • Rising Star Award: Katie Gwozdecky is a private pilot and graduate of the University of Toronto in Mechanical Engineering. During her time in school she fiercely pursued her passion for space exploration, and joined the University of Toronto Aerospace Team UTAT. With UTAT, she built sounding rockets, designed and manufactured components for small satellites, among many other technical endeavors. Her major contribution to the team was leading UTAT as Director of Space Systems to pass a student levy, raising nearly half a million dollars to fund the launch of the first amateur satellite from U of T, HERON MKII, in 2019. This levy is the first of its kind in Canada enabling high volume fundraising for student teams. She leaves UTAT with a legacy of dedication, perseverance and teamwork. Her passion for space engineering has led her to pursue her MASc at the Space Flight Lab at the University of Toronto in September.

Other initiatives include a Speakers’ Bureau, Mentorship Program, and a Scholarship Program. The 2018 Gala Award Dinner will be held on Saturday, September 29, at the Sheraton Parkway Hotel and Suites Conference Centre in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Tickets go on sale in July. For additional information and tickets visit our website at or call Anna Pangrazzi 416 399-5247.


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